Washington, DC – Following reports that the Trump Administration is threatening to close vital organizations that help refugees arriving in Buffalo, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that she is calling on the U.S. Department of State to reject any plan to reduce or close resettlement agencies in New York State.
Buffalo has four refugee resettlement agencies – Journey’s End Refugee Service, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, International Institute of Buffalo, and Catholic Charities of Buffalo – that help integrate new refugees arriving in Buffalo. These agencies have helped thousands of refugees find jobs and job training, grow businesses in Buffalo, and enroll in school. According to reports, the Trump Administration has mandated that one or two of Buffalo’s refugee resettlement agencies close down. Gillibrand, in a letter to the Department of State, expressed her concern that closing these sites would render these agencies’ expertise and relationships with the community irrecoverable and would be a disservice to all New York.
“The people who have come to Buffalo seeking refuge from some of the most dangerous parts of the world have become an important part of our communities. They are our neighbors, our business owners, and our colleagues,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Buffalo’s refugee resettlement agencies help ease their transition to life in America. The latest move by the Trump Administration to shut down these agencies is another shameful attack by this President on our values. Our state has always welcomed people from all over the world, and I am calling on the Department of State to reject any plan to close resettlement agencies in New York.”
In November 2016, Gillibrand met with refugee and immigrant business owners from Buffalo, as well as with all four of Buffalo’s refugee resettlement agencies, to listen to their stories and hear from them about the many ways they contribute to the economy in Western New York. In Buffalo, the refugee population has contributed to the city’s economic revitalization. Buffalo’s population had been shrinking for half a century, and the influx of refugees from around the world has helped to stabilize it. Over the past five years alone, the city resettled more than 6,298 refugees. However, under the Trump administration’s policies, the number of refugees admitted to the United States has lowered to an unprecedented number. Only 245 refugees from across the world resettled in Buffalo and its suburbs in the first six months this year, compared to 460 refugees during the same time last year.
Gillibrand has pushed against President’s Trump’s policies that reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States. In October, Gillibrand joined 17 Senate colleagues in a letter to Secretary Pompeo, expressing their concern on the steep cut in the refugee admissions target for 2019 and urging the Trump administration to reconsider this decision. Earlier this year, Gillibrand also advocated for robust funding for refugee resettlement programs.
The full text of Gillibrand’s letter to Secretary Pompeo can be found here and below:
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
I am writing concerning reports that the Department of State seeks to reduce the number of refugee resettlement sites in Buffalo. Refugee resettlement has been an important part of Buffalo’s prosperity and a critical catalyst for revitalization. Therefore, I urge you to reject any reduction or closure of resettlement agencies in New York State.
I have long advocated against reducing the number of refugees because of their economic and cultural contribution to our great state of New York. Over the last decade, New York has resettled 40,000 refugees with almost all of them in cities like Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Utica. In fact, according to an analysis by the New American Economy, foreign-born residents contributed greatly to federal, state, and local taxes, including property, income, sales, and excise taxes levied by either the State of New York or by municipal governments. According to the same analysis, foreign-born residents contributed $3.1B to the GDP of the Buffalo metro area. This could not have been done without the expertise of the resettlement agencies to help them find jobs and training, even helping them establish new businesses and create jobs after getting settled.
The city of Buffalo, New York is a welcoming, preferred resettlement site with growing economic opportunities. Buffalo is a city of opportunity for all, and refugee resettlement has been an important part of its revitalization. Over the past five years, from 2013 to 2018, more than 6,298 refugees have arrived in Buffalo. They have also helped newly arrived children enroll in our schools, adding to the diversity and richness of our educational system. The refugee community has been a focus of the city’s rising prosperity. Refugees and resettlement programming is so important to our economy and community that New York State has even added funding for post-resettlement programming through the NYS Enhanced Services to Refugees Program for two years. I am pleased to support that program and others that have clearly demonstrated their value – but without resettlement they cannot help.
Refugee resettlement sites in Buffalo are critical. All four of the existing resettlement agencies serve different needs and should be kept open to continue the essential work of welcoming refugees to our community. It would be detrimental to Buffalo if any one of these agencies, Journey’s End Refugee Services, the Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, the International Institute of Buffalo, or Catholic Charities of Buffalo, was forced to close its doors.
Thank you for continuing to resettle refugees in Western New York. I urge you to keep all of the resettlement agencies in Buffalo, NY open.
United States Senator